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Judge Finds Amazon Broke Labor Law in Anti-Union Effort

Amazon violated labor law in advance of unionization elections last year at two warehouses on Staten Island, a federal administrative judge has ruled.

The judge, who hears cases for the National Labor Relations Board, ruled on Monday that Amazon supervisors had illegally threatened to withhold wage and benefit increases from employees at the warehouses if they voted to unionize. The judge, Benjamin W. Green, also ruled that Amazon had illegally removed posts on a digital message board from an employee inviting co-workers to sign a petition being circulated by the Amazon Labor Union. The union sought to represent workers at both warehouses.

The ruling ordered Amazon to stop the unfair labor practices and to post a notice saying it would not engage in them.

In the same ruling, the judge dismissed several accusations brought in a complaint by the labor board’s prosecutors, including charges that Amazon indicated take-home pay would fall if workers unionized; that Amazon promised improvements in a program that subsidizes workers’ educational expenses if they chose not to unionize; and that Amazon indicated that workers would be fired if they unionized and failed to pay union dues.

The judge found that these accusations were either overstated or, in the final instance, that the action was not illegal.

Amazon can appeal the ruling to the labor board in Washington.

“We’re glad that the judge dismissed 19 — nearly all — of the allegations in this case,” Mary Kate Paradis, an Amazon spokeswoman, said in a statement, adding: “The facts continue to show that the teams in our buildings work hard to do the right thing.”

The union declined to comment.

The violations occurred at a vast Amazon warehouse known as JFK8, where workers voted to unionize an in election whose results were announced in April, and at a smaller, nearby warehouse known as LDJ5, where workers voted down a union the next month.

In the weeks before the elections, Amazon summoned employees at the warehouses to dozens of anti-union meetings at which supervisors questioned the credibility of the Amazon Labor Union, emphasized the costliness of union dues and warned that workers could end up worse off under a union.

The judge’s ruling set aside a broader question brought by labor board prosecutors: whether employers can force workers to attend such meetings.

The meetings are legal under labor board precedent and common among employers facing union campaigns. But the board’s general counsel, Jennifer Abruzzo, has argued that the precedent is in tension with federal labor law and had sought to challenge it.

Judge Green concluded that he lacked the authority to overturn the precedent. “I am required to apply current law,” he wrote. Ms. Abruzzo’s office can file an appeal asking the labor board in Washington to overturn the precedent.

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